Guttural squawks, groans and clattering sounds greet us as we drive into this tiny village. The perpetrators of these noises seem to be perched on the massive tamarind trees that tower over the clusters of little houses. As I look up towards the sky, I am delighted and awed to sight hundreds of large and magnificent birds studded across the branches, perched in various stances. Some of them periodically take off and land with a grace that is admirable for their size, while others merely squat around as if discussing important matters befitting their positions in high places.
Welcome to the Veerapuram Bird Sanctuary in the Sri Sathya Sai district of Andhra Pradesh, India and marvel at the strange connection between the villagers and the innumerable Painted Storks which have inexplicably and repeatedly chosen this place as their home from February to August every year.
My visit to the beautiful homestay called Laila’s Farm has yielded this serendipitous discovery and my camera and I are excited to explore this little sanctuary and capture these gorgeous beings on lens.
About Sri Sathya Sai district –
This very new district of Andhra Pradesh was carved out of the larger Anantapur district in early 2022.
It now shares a border with the Anantapur, Annamayya and YSR districts of Andhra Pradesh and its Karnataka neighbors are the Chitradurga, Tumakuru and Chikkaballapura districts, the last one providing the closest route from Bangalore airport.
Named in honor of Sri Sathya Sai Baba whose ashram is at Puttaparthi in this region, this district is also famed for being home to several religious, historical and other touristic sites and even factories of multinational companies and hence contains enough bait to attract tourists across a wide range of interests.
Its geographical proximity to the metropolitan city of Bangalore and the excellent connectivity via the highway, also ensures a steady stream of visitors who are on the constant lookout for interesting places to take short but refreshing vacations.
Prasanthi Nilayam, Kadiri, Lepakshi, Penukonda etc, are some of the oft visited places and of course this bird sanctuary in this remote village of Veerapuram which falls under the Chilamathur mandal (zone) in this district.
About the Veerapuram Bird Sanctuary –
A pair of Painted storks in their literally larger than life statue avatars and a rather dull looking board are the only indication of this treasure that lies around 15 km ahead.
The Veerapuram bird sanctuary in the tiny village of Veerapuram, was a real delight with the fascinating sight of thousands of Painted storks roosting and nesting on the large trees of that little village. Migratory Painted storks arrive every year and make this place their home from March to August. The birds fly in every February/March and return home in August/September after nesting, mating, procreating and waiting for the young ones to be ready to fly off again to God knows where because that information was not available to me 😀
The villagers shower their utmost care and concern on these birds whom they consider their own and it is probably this non threatening and safe environment which brings the winged guests back, repeatedly every year.
This is a great place to get good pictures because the birds are so used to human presence that they even strut on the ground among the poultry, cattle and people. In fact it is highly amusing to watch the local and ‘visiting’ creatures cohabiting in this unusual ecosystem.
However, there does not seem to be any Siberian connection as far as I have researched and the ‘Siberian’ tag seems to be an error because it does not seem like any of these birds actually migrate from Siberia. The existing Painted storks seem to migrate only within Asia. I was unable to get more information as to why this was named the Siberian sanctuary.
Enjoy this short Instagram reel –
Where to stay –
To the best of my knowledge, there are no proper hotels or places to stay near by, other than Laila’s Farm which is barely 5 km from this place. This homestay is very comfortable and also a very charming place.
Beyond this, there are hotels in Lepakshi which is around 20 km away. The Andhra Pradesh tourism run Lepakshi Haritha hotel is said to be reasonably good choice. For a better choice of hotels, one has to go to the city of Hindupur which is around 35 km from the bird sanctuary.
What to carry –
There is nothing much in the village by way of facilities, so it is advisable to carry food and water.
The nearest decent eating places would be around 10 km away.
For washroom facilities, take recourse to the lap of Mother Nature 😏
Apart from this, it would be useful to wear a cap and good walking shoes. Clothes are weather dependent, light cottons in summer and probably a light coat in the other months. An umbrella or raincoat in the monsoon.
The place is not very remote and the nearest habitation and basic shops are available within a 10 km radius.
Best time to visit –
I was told by the villagers that the best season to visit the Veerapuram village was from February to August.
Getting there –
The Bangalore Hyderabad highway is excellent and going by cab or private car from Bangalore, is the most convenient way to get to Veerapuram.
After crossing the Bagepalli checkpost, turn off the main highway towards Lepakshi. After a few kilometers there is another left turn marked by the statues of the painted storks and a board indicating the direction to the sanctuary.
The distance from Bangalore city (MG Road) is around 120 km and takes 2 hours.
The nearest airport is the Kempegowda International Airport, Bangalore, which is around 95 km away and would take 1 hour 30 minutes by road.
There is a bus stop in Bagepalli town in Chikballapur district and is 20 away.
There are also many state and private buses that ply on the Bangalore Hyderabad highway and might halt at the nearest point on the highway (Andhra Pradesh check post) which is around 10 km from the village.
Autorickshaws should be available for the last mile connectivity even from Bagepalli.
On the Andhra Pradesh side, the nearest major railway station is at Hindupur, 35 km away.
Things of interest en route from Bangalore –
There are a few major places of interest on the way from Bangalore. A bit of a detour from the highway may be necessary to get to them though. The notable places which one might want to visit are –
Sri Bhoga Nandishwara temple
Adiyogi Shiva statue at Chikballapur
Location details –
Veerapuram village, Chilamathur mandal
Sri Sathya Sai district
Please Note –
This visit was courtesy of Laila’s Farm and I thank them for the hospitality. My narration is based on the inputs I received from various sources as well as my personal experiences.
I would really appreciate your feedback and comments in the comment box below.
For more pictures see My Facebook – Veerapuram Bird Sanctuary (coming soon)
July 20th, 2023